It was my Uncle Peter (Galvin) who took me to my first ever Celtic game. I was aged 8 at the time and we lived in Govan although, as my Uncle Peter liked to point out, we didn’t support our local team!
It was 1937 and the season hadn’t long started. We had been on holiday in Girvan but my Uncle Peter was anxious to return to take me to Celtic Park for the first time. We got the bus from Govan to Argyle Street. Then we jumped on the no.9 tram to Auchenshuggle, which stopped on London Road, dropping us in front of Celtic Park.
It was a League Division 1 game v Hamilton Academicals. Celtic had a great team at the time. The world-famous Jimmy McGrory was still playing in the Hoops – it would prove his last season. Celtic greats including Jimmy Delaney, Willie Buchan, Malcolm MacDonald, Willie Lyon and Bobby Hogg were all in the team that day. This Celtic team would go on to win the title and also the Empire Exhibition Cup that season, laying claim to being the best team in Britain at the time. Willie Maley, who had played in Celtic’s first ever game 49 years earlier, was still the manager.
Celtic Park looked huge. This was before I’d been to Hampden. The Jungle, across the pitch from me, had holes in the roof and wooden crush barriers. There were no floodlights at Celtic Park at this time (and not until 1959) so there were no evening matches then. In the war years, if it was foggy the games would start early. You could hear goods trains running past on the railway line which at that time ran behind the Celtic End (West Terracing).
I was in the enclosure down at the front of the Main Stand, next to the tunnel. My Uncle Peter had lifted me up on to the wall and I had my feet on the track just a few feet away from the pitch. When the police walked along the track they’d tell you to move your feet. And then you’d just move them back on to the track after they’d walked on!
I remember the strong smell of embrocation oil in the air – used by athletes to rub on their body to relieve pain/sprains – coming from the tunnel. There was no public address system at Celtic Park and the players didn’t do any warm up on the pitch pre-match. That meant that you didn’t know who was playing until the teams emerged from the tunnel. And even then it could take time to identify the players as they didn’t have numbers on their shirts or shorts in the 1930s.
The Main Stand at Celtic Park – erected in 1929
There was no Jimmy McGrory that day, who was replaced by Joe Carruth. My Uncle Peter idolised McGrory. Joe Carruth was to prove a popular Celt with the fans. He stepped into the void left when, after McGrory retired in October, Willie Buchan was sold to Blackpool in November. The Celtic support were up in arms about that.
McGrory played in the 3rd and 4th Celtic games that I saw. The 4th was to prove his last-ever game for Celtic in October 1937, fourteen years on from his debut. I only knew that McGrory was appearing that day when my excited uncle shouted out “McGrory’s playing!” as the players ran out from the tunnel on to the pitch. Jimmy McGrory remains the record top-flight scorer in the history of British football.
Malky MacDonald, regarded by many as the most skilful Celtic player ever, replaced the injured Chic Geatons. It was a young Celtic team who raced into a quick lead after Joe Carruth scored twice in the first ten minutes. Hamilton scored half-way through the half though and then equalised just a minute before the interval.
It wasn’t long into the second half when Carruth was fouled in the box and Willie Buchan converted the penalty to give Celts the lead again. About ten minutes later Frank Murphy set up Carruth to score again, making it a hat-trick for him.
The Celtic support realised that, although McGrory was on his way out, it looked as though there was a ready-made replacement waiting to fill his boots in the shape of Joe Carruth. The Carruth family were already well-known in Glasgow as they ran a Catholic gift shop called ‘Carruth’s Grotto’ which was next door to St Mungo’s Church on Parson Street before it later moved down to the High Street, near Glasgow Cross.
That was my first visit to Paradise but I’ve kept returning every year since. I am now 88 years old and still a season-ticket holder. My seat in the Main Stand at Celtic Park is not too far from where I sat on the wall next to the tunnel watching one of the greatest Celtic teams ever come running out over 80 years ago. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.
The Jungle (aka the Hayshed) viewed from the Main Stand in the late 1930s
Frank’s first game was Celtic v Hamilton Accies at Celtic Park on 6th September 1937.
Celtic won 4-2 (Goalscorers: Carruth (3), Buchan) Attendance: 14,000
The Celtic team was: Kennaway, Hogg, Morrison, MacDonald, Lyon, Paterson, Delaney, Buchan, Carruth, Crum, Murphy
Celtic Captain Willie Lyon and manager Willie Maley at the end of season 1937-8 with the Empire Exhibition Trophy
MY FIRST CELTIC GAME
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